Posted: Mon 30th Jul 2012
When United Airlines failed to come up to the mark over a complaint about a broken guitar, writes Jane (left), the viral negative publicity that followed cost its shareholders $180 million in its stock price plunge. Ouch.Whether you're a solopreneur or running a worldwide corporation, not only do business and 'nice' mix - they must.Â Facebook, YouTube, Twitter....can spread the word about bad service quicker than you can summon a PR company for damage limitation.
Anyway, customers have so much choice on offer (even global choice now), we have to continually delight and treasure them, to make them feel valued, special - and loyal.Â Because if you don't, another business will. It's not even about spending a fortune on customer relationship management systems or lavish gifts.Â I know of vets who have adopted the policy of sending out a sweet card about a month after they have had the task of putting a loved pet to sleep.Â They post out the sympathy card, sometimes with the paw print on the back, too, to show that they care about the family's feelings. I'm also reminded of a meeting hubby and I attended nearly 30 years ago at a props hire firm.Â Instead of gathering around the boardroom table, we all sat by their business fireside (literally!) and in came lashings of buttered toast and mugs of tea, with warm, welcoming smiles from the meeting hosts.Â Unforgettable.Â Cost: a loaf of bread and some butter.
'Nice' creates long lasting customer relationships and those clients in turn will be your best source of testimonials.Â Happy existing customers are your unpaid sales force!Â 'Nice' is vital in terms of running the office, too.Â Hiring and training staff is an expensive business: to lose them shortly afterwards because they didn't settle well at the company: that's a costly game.Â What would it have taken to make them feel they were in nice company and in a nice company? I ran a survey and asked what qualities we wanted to see in those we did business with... and the answers were all about honesty, integrity and 'do as you say you will'.Â We've all had it up to the eyeballs learning about bankers' greed, politicians' back pockets or businesses closing down to clear debts, only to open the next day under another name.Â That is NOT playing nicely and a society where we cease to do so, for whatever reason or justification (eg, "they did it to me first"), is a slippery slope and a scary place. Don't worry though: being nice isn't the same as being a pushover.Â It's not even about being soft in hard business.Â It's more about showing people in a visible, tangible way just what great value AND great values you have on the inside. Business AND 'nice' are a perfect combination and if you can offer that, then doing business with you will be a real pleasure and we will beat a path to your door.
Jane Malyon is a trainer, founder of The English Cream Tea Company and author of Play Nicely! Best Behaviour in Business. You can follow her on Twitter or read her thoughts about business and other issues on her blog.
Photo credit: Andy Piper